Film newcomers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are collectively known as “Daniels” for some reason, and the pair has come out swingin’ with Swiss Army Man, an indie-ish film about what it is to be alive. It’s a lesson that Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) learns, ironically, from a corpse played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, duh) who, over the course of the film, becomes one of the strangest characters we’ve ever seen. Hank is stranded on the coast someplace, but when Manny washes up on the shore in all his decaying glory, Hank begins to use the body as a means to sort through all his self-perceived personal failings and mental issues. Manny starts to come to life (sort of) and simultaneously acts as water spigot, firearm, wood-chopper and, oddly, fart-propelled jetpack/jet ski. It is definitely fun to see his “powers” revealed over the course of the story, but ultimately, they are about the best thing one can say for this tale. Swiss Army Man isn’t like anything else you’ve ever seen, that’s for sure, but it lags throughout and is almost painfully self-aware. It becomes hard to differentiate between the kids-playing-in-the-yard aesthetic and the seriously sad realization that Hank is probably just insane and hasn’t realized it. The premise itself is interesting enough, and Dano does find an oddly perfect balance between relatable neurotic and unhinged lunatic wherein we feel along with him despite ourselves and see our own shortcomings in his openness. But everything is just so preciously self-indulgent that by the time the credits roll and the “twist” ending begins to sink in, the whole journey just seems kind of silly. Or monumentally depressing—we can’t really decide.
Radcliffe, however, is practically perfect, and his mostly motionless take on a 20-something dead guy who is also basically a newborn provides some brilliantly timed laughs. There’s a fine line between legitimate eccentricity and forced weirdness, and though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Swiss Army Man falls on that spectrum, it’ll probably only be enjoyed by a very specific kind of moviegoer. This isn’t to say it isn’t worth a watch, more like it’s really only OK, and everyone else can just wait for it to hit Netflix.
Swiss Army Man